I am a stark-raving liberal. I care about my fellow Earth citizens. I think “luck” plays too great a role in the human condition. Why am I not some rural African dead or dying from AIDS? Why I am not subject to the ludicrous conditions and threat of rape in modern day South Africa? How did I luck out, born middle class, white, and reasonably happy in free North America?
Couldn’t tell ya. Is what it is. I’m grateful daily for who I am and where I am.
But, also, I am apalled by the western world’s lack of involvement in the African condition. After all, if it’s just luck, then why is theirs so goddamned bad?
It was about 120 years ago that the first-ever human rights campaign began. The birth of photography made it possible to document horrors happening, and it was first used to document the horrors of the rubber massacre at the end of the 19th century. The Congo was being obliterated by King Leopold and his Belgian bastards because of the discovery of rubber trees there (the birth of the auto made rubber, for tires, a highly prized natural resource until a synthetic form was invented much later). It was an attrocity that became the basis of Conrad’s Heart of Darkness, upon which the movie Apocalypse Now was based. Head-hunting was a sport, one could claim. Nearly 10 million Africans were murdered in what became the first modern genocide… greater than the Holocaust.
In that 120 years, incredible tragedy has consistently clouded the continent. From genocide after genocide to drought and starvation and racial cleansing and horrific rape statistics, the continent serves as a reminder of just how much can go wrong when political instability is inflicted on a region. Throw into that mix a little climate intensity and general social unrest and you have the hottest hotbed in the world.
Y’know, Africa’s a part of the world I’d like to get lost and never found in. Something about that part of the world makes me wanna weep inside, the good way and the bad way. The cradle of civilization, indeed. If the earth is an animal, Africa is its pulsating heart. I wanna go, and bad.
But I really want to see it start to heal some. Believing in manifest destiny, white Europeans landed on Africa and decimated it for its bountiful and enviable natural resources. They brought firepower when Africans had only fire. The place has never recovered. Can’t we at least atone a little for the sins of our fathers? Just a bit?
So, I’m going to make a point of it in the next week to go to the Gap and buy a (Red) t-shirt. Bono of U2 fame and pal Bobby Shriver have come up with the idea. A (Red) brand shirt* will mean half the money goes to buy drugs for AIDS victims in Africa. Oprah bought shirts for her audience of 300, and that profit alone was enough to pay for the drugs to inhibit transmission of AIDS from a mother to her unborn child for 14,000 women.
More than providing cold hard cash for a problem that is more economic than it is anything else, though, is that it proves people care. It proves that western people WANT their governments to contribute to the global human condition in a positive, lasting way. It proves that we think they deserve to live, too.
I mean, you agree, don’t you? Then why doesn’t your government react? Buy a shirt.* Become a number. Become evidence. Become a powerful political platform. Become part of a movement that’s proving it feels good to give a shit. It really, really feels good.
Like that $20 was gonna go to something better, anyhow. Do it. Get (Red).
*Or shoes. Or blue jeans. Or an iPOD Nano @ Apple. Or a cell phone @ Motorola. (Red) is an entire line of products. All fall under the (approximately) 50%-to-AIDS-prevention/treatment guidelines for African charity proceeds.)